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running on empty
why is it so hard to hit the gym?
by jason gilmore (@JasonGilmore77)

I'm one of the laziest people I know.

This may surprise some of you. I have friends who've told me that I'm living a different life everytime they see me. And some of these people see me every day. Already, in 2007, I have:

a) directed a rap video for my rap group
b) disbanded my rap group
c) directed a scene from a play for a workshop
d) rewritten the entire first chapter of my only novel
e) shot photos for a young model's portfolio
f) written at least seven songs
g) read 6 books (although 4 were on CD; kinda cheating, no?)
h) revised several of my screenplays and sent them to an interested producer, as well as the Nicholls Fellowship
i) won the national championship on March Madness '06 -- in one sitting

I'm not saying this to brag. My point is that turning 30 has brought clarity. Things that I used to let slide are now being confronted. Internally and externally.

The question, lately, has been, why am I an overachiever in some areas of my life and so backwards in others? If my wife doesn't cook, why will I virtually starve instead of cooking for myself? Especially since I can cook. Things like that.

More specifically, it's come down to my reluctance to work out. And the means that I will go to to avoid working out, if necessary.

Some people look at me and say, "What are you? A buck fifty? What do you need to work out for?" Obviously, my goal is not to lose weight. Really, my goals are to fill out suits better, to be healthier, lower my cholesterol, and, hell, feel better after spending 11 hours a weekday either sitting at my desk or sitting in my car.

But here's where it gets tricky. Here's where you really learn who you are. I started with a membership at the Westchester YMCA. The prettiest YMCA in the world. I had to pass it to get home from work. I tried to go four times a week. Then, four became two. Then, two became none. I started off playing basketball. But I lost interest in that. Then, the treadmill and weights. But I lost interest in that. What I needed was a trainer. Oh yeah, forgot, had one of those too. Lost interest.

It's true, I have long been the product of good genes and God's grace. But while I'm hardly in danger of blowing up to 300 lbs, as an African-American male, I'm susceptible enough to heart disease and diabetes that I can't keep walking around like I'm going to live forever. Like this guy.

In my lone moment of fiscal conservatism, I cancelled the gym membership. The wife and I decided we'd run around The Forum, as a lot of people do. It's about a mile around and just a few blocks from our house. On the days where I got home too late, we'd do yoga. (Officially Californian now, I know.) But the results have been mixed at best. Usually, I come home and watch ESPNNEWS for a few minutes, just to get oriented. Next thing I know, it's midnight and somehow all I've done is eaten. And these NBA Playoffs have been absolute murder. (GO PISTONS!!!!!)

It's getting better though. Probably because the weather's better and the days are longer. And, once basketball's over, I won't even have any bad excuses not to get my cardio on.

But really, it's just about shedding my innate desire to take the easy road. The funny thing is, when I work out, I do feel better. Not just physically, but also from the knowledge that I'm doing what's good for me when I really didn't have to. 30 is about developing myself outside of the things that come most easily. The things that I always tell myself will buy me the time to do the important things. Back-to-back cliches, everyone!!: Life is short. Tomorrow is not promised.

Yeah, and if I could just make myself go to bed before midnight. Yeah, that would be nice too.


Jason Gilmore is a film director, screenwriter, novelist and unrepentant Detroit Pistons fan. Track him down on Facebook.

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sandra thompson
5.14.07 @ 9:14a

This isn't going to help anybody, but I had an aunt who firmly believed that exercise was BAD for us. Now, this particular aunt was, for the most part, certifiably insane, but you can always quote her when it's convenient. "Sandra's Aunt Terah said that exercise is bad for us." From my ripe old vantage point of 72 years I will just say this: exercise (even a little bit is better than none), floss and do as you please about everything else.

Jason, you are not alone. Everybody I know has to force him/herself to exercise. It's counter-intuitive. It's a hassle, it's downright painful at times, and nobody LIKES it.

Pesonally, I think you are a marvelous example of a wonderful human being, and deserve to live a long and happy life. Thus, I have every confidence that you will knuckle under and exercise at least a little.

Love and kisses,

Sandra, Tribal Elder and Vociferous Cliche User

russ carr
5.14.07 @ 1:05p

This could come from my own hand. But we still haven't cut the Y membership because one boy is in swim class and the wife, bless her, still goes to work out a buncha times a week. Me, I'm whipped when I get home, and by the time we get the boys to bed, it's 9 pm and the last thing I want to do is schlep off to get sweaty.

mike julianelle
5.14.07 @ 5:17p

I go during lunch sometimes, and it's the best thing on earth. So convenient.

alex b
5.14.07 @ 5:36p

Heh, I go when I remember to.

jason gilmore
5.14.07 @ 7:30p

yeah, my job is supposed to be working on the "gym on facility" thing, that would be really cool if it happens soon

joe procopio
5.14.07 @ 8:56p

Rocky up. Get up an hour before you need to. Stretch, put on shoes, run. You'll be so shocked that your brain won't believe you're going to go running until it's too late.

michelle von euw
5.14.07 @ 11:19p

Heh -- have you met my husband?

We are in the middle of a gym revival: a new one opened up blocks from our house, and I adore it. Joe does a lot of basketball & pool work, and I'm cardio/weights girl.

Of course, I know myself well enough to realize I'll probably go through the no-gym slump again, but what I always forget during those stretches is that I love the gym. (My problem is, I hate getting there, which is why location is important.)

It sucks that the hoops & weights became boring for you; my best advice is to keep trying new things until you find something you like. And then keep mixing it up, so your workouts never get to the boring stage.

tabitha brown
5.15.07 @ 1:20p

talk about it! L-A-Z-Y is my middle name. However, I have had an AAAAHHHH moment and decided to start working out again as of today! It's a 30 day challenge to do some type of exercise for 30 days for an hour. Whether it be to the gym or a walk at lunch and then when i get home. I can just hear my Moms voice in my head. "girl, the older you get the harder it is to take the weight off." Thanks Mom

trey askew
5.15.07 @ 4:18p

Exercising to exercise is hard to do for most people. My advice is to work out for a reason. Sign up for a 5K a couple of months out. Join a basketball league and get burned a couple of times, that'll motivate you.

And if you take Joe's advice of getting up early, going to bed earlier will be no problem!

tracey kelley
5.15.07 @ 11:52p

Trey! Buddy! Where HAVE you been, doll?

I abhor the gym. But I love exercise that doesn't really feel like it - working in the garden for a straight three-hour stretch; walking the 2 miles to the grocery store and back; biking 30-40 miles on a nice trail; shooting some hoops or walking around a nearby lake after dinner. I do yoga and Pilates inside, but I'd much, much rather be outside and active than watching some dude drip sweat on my treadmill and having the house music seep through my headphones.

I'm with Joe and Trey - if I don't get up early, then, aside from gardening, exercising doesn't happen. The day just falls away.

Takes about 3 weeks for your schedule to change, but once it does, it's easy. And if you do need to sleep in, and all you have is 20 minutes extra, skip rope or do yoga in that 20 minutes.

juli mccarthy
5.16.07 @ 12:53a

In general, I am not good at exercise with rules. Sports have never been my idea of fun.

When I quit smoking, I really expected to gain a lot of weight, in part because I didn't think I got a lot of exercise. I started paying attention, though, and realized I get way more than I thought just running around randomly. I'm very inefficient and have zero attention span, so almost everything I do is twice as much physical work as it needs to be! And I have discovered a real love for bellydance, which incorporates a surprising amount of yoga.

robert melos
5.16.07 @ 1:05a

I actually enjoyed the gym, and if it weren't for some outside circumstances I'd still be going. I did a very light workout, mostly those machines where you push against something or pull something while sitting in a crouched position risking straining something if you don't take it easy. I like basketball, but I'm not very good at it. I also really enjoy the steam room after the workout. And the hot tub. Sometimes I skip the workout and head straight to the steam room. Maybe that defeats the purpose of the workout, but sometimes I just need to steam.

I hope to eventually get back to the gym.

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